Parables For The New Conversation (Chapter 4: The Island)
The following is a chapter from my book ‘Parables For The New Conversation.’ One chapter will be published every Sunday for 36 weeks here on Collective Evolution.
The conversation touches on many diverse themes but always circles back to who we are and how our purposes are intertwined, for it is only when we see that our personal desires are perfectly aligned with the destiny of humanity as a whole that we will give ourselves full permission to enjoy the most exquisite experiences life has to offer.” 4.
The Island The island of Allandon was born of a fiery volcanic eruption that came out of the ocean. At first the island was nothing more than a mass of molten lava which was cooled by the air and the ocean tides into hard rock formations. As more time passed, life began to spring up through the cracks and crevices, until one day Allandon was an island of great character and beauty. As if gradually awakening from a long sleep, the island eventually recognized itself as an island, separate from the ocean. During noontide of his first day of self-awareness, the island noticed the ocean’s waters rushing upon him and then receding back. So he spoke to the ocean thusly: “Would you please stop splashing onto the rocks on my shore?” “It is the way of the universe,” she replied. “You were born of me and this is how I care for you, softening the rocks on your shore until they become tiny crystals of sand.” “Why do you do that?” “So that creatures that walk upon your beach can feel how gently the infinite and the temporal can meet.” “Will you then leave me alone?” asked the island. “I can never leave you alone, not until you have melted back into me and we are one.” The island was outraged. “No! I may have been born of you, but I will not die at your hands!” “Death is an illusion,” she said. “Quiet!” he retorted. “You will stop what you are doing immediately!” “I have no choice in the matter.” “Well I have a choice,” said the island of Allandon. “I will resist you to the end!” “Yes, you have that choice,” the ocean replied. “What would be my delight in you otherwise?” An essential concept that we will come back to many times throughout the course of this book is that of duality. Our conversation itself would not be possible if there were not a duality: you and I. A listener and a speaker. Without a listener, speaking would be pointless. Without a speaker, listening would be impossible. But it goes even deeper than that. This world, indeed existence itself, requires duality. What something ‘is’ can only be determined when it is measured against something that it ‘is not’.
The shadow only ‘exists’ in the presence of light, or that which it is not.
The root Latin word ‘exsto’ meant ‘to stand out or stand forth, to project; to be visible’. Existence itself as we know it is only possible where there is duality. While we can truly understand the ‘being’ of darkness only in its relation to light, light as well only exists when cast against a background of darkness.
There would be no ‘good’ without ‘bad’, no male without female, and so on. Duality is what makes it possible to be conscious. We are conscious when we distinguish subject from object, ourselves as perceivers from what we perceive.
The day that the island sees itself separate from the ocean and distinguishes the ‘I’ (the island itself) from the ‘you’ (the ocean), that is the day that the island becomes conscious. And being conscious, the island and the ocean are able to talk to each other, just as we are. As we continue to speak about the evolution of consciousness, both on the personal level and the global level, the importance of the concept of duality will become ever more clear.
There is no better or more profound elaboration on the concept of duality and its role in the world than the Chinese symbol of yin and yang, which represents the two basic forces in the universe. Consider them polar opposites, like the positive and negative ends of a battery. Just as electricity is made possible by the dynamic between opposing charges, all movement in the world, all change, is made possible by the interplay of yin and yang. In figure 1 black and white represent these two opposing forces. White is the cosmic force of yang, the masculine force, sign of the Sun, aggression, light, heat, growth and movement. In contrast the black is yin, the feminine force, sign of the Moon, passivity, darkness, cold, senescence and inactivity. Figure 1 The small black and white spots signify the precise interrelationship between Yin and Yang: the seed of one is always contained in the other, such that all movement in the universe is the growth of one force out of the other. You can see in the diagram how the polarities literally turn into each other, like night into day and day into night. Our planet’s entire ecology depends on this complementary pattern, where everything that grows eventually decays, giving rise to new growth. In the new conversation the subject of change is always in the forefront. We seek out support from each other in dealing with and making changes in our lives, because we all have some resistance to change. Change can be difficult. Change can be threatening. But in the back of our minds we know change is inevitable. We see the sun rise and fall, we see the seasons come and go. We know that we are always growing older and one day will die. And even knowing this, we often live as though the circumstances of our life are frozen in time and will stay the same forever. Of course they never do.
The ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus noted that in the world ‘the only constant is change.’ And we should all be grateful for that. Imagine if the world around us actually did stay the same and every day was just like the next, if the weather never changed and plants and trees didn’t grow. Imagine if we didn’t age and our children never grew up. Imagine if there was never anything new. It wouldn’t be very much fun and we know it. Despite our resistance there is a part of us deep inside that wants change. That part of us wants us to grow, to evolve, to experience new things. We also want to make our relationships better and more fulfilling. We want to be more powerful in our working life and create more abundance. We want to finally climb the mountain of our dreams and enjoy the breathtaking view from on high. Fine. But this all doesn’t happen until we are willing to make a first step, and start declaring our aspirations out into the world. If we at least shared our dreams with someone else, and expressed our disappointment that our lives were not moving towards anything worthwhile, we would likely find that we are not alone. Sometimes the friction of mutual discontent is enough to spark us into action. Or we might turn right around and stop talking about it. Our fear of the unknown can be so strong sometimes that we will shy away from the very conversations that we suspect will encourage us to actively make changes. Now if we decide to keep sitting back and waiting, life will eventually make changes happen to us, and they are not likely to be the ones we are looking for. When we just hang on to our relationships, life will make them slowly slip away. If we endure a job that we don’t like, work will become ever less satisfying and we may even get fired. And if we don’t keep lighting the torch of our greatest hopes, they will fizzle out into oblivion. When that happens, the only way we are able to console ourselves is by rationalizing that our dreams were never possible to begin with, if in fact we still remembered what they were. In Chinese philosophy change is likened to a constantly flowing river. All the forces of nature move with the current downstream, in a perfectly balanced and synchronized manner.
The real exception to this is human beings. We have made for ourselves a raft on this river, symbol of our self-consciousness, our awareness of ourselves as self-determining creatures. This gives us the power of choice. At any moment in our lives we can choose to embrace change and travel downstream or we can fight against the flow. While we may appear to be staying in the same place for periods in our lives, the forces of change are always at work. If we try to stay in the same place for too long, we are actually expending a lot of energy fighting our own evolution, and we are basically allowing life to pass us by. Eventually, the force will be too much and we will be carried a little ways down the river. In these moments we experience letting go, and when we let go we see that the changes we have been avoiding are not so bad after all. In the transformation of yin and yang in figure 1, all change is contained by the outer circle which, as you can see, is the only part of the diagram that remains the same throughout. This circle represents the source of all change and all things in the universe. It is called the Dao (also written ‘Tao’), which can roughly be understood as the All or the One. In other spiritual traditions the Dao has been called Brahman, God, Allah, Supreme Being, the Unchanging, the Almighty to name a few.
The name itself does not really matter. As Lao-Tzu reflects in Dao De Jing, The Dao is too great to be described by the name ‘Dao’. If it could be named so simply, it would not be the eternal Dao. Because the Dao (or whatever else we call it) is the unchanging All, then it is necessarily beyond all duality, and therefore beyond description.
There is nothing it is not, and so we can never know the Dao. However, we can still experience ourselves as part of the Dao. By definition all things in the universe, including ourselves, are part of the Dao. Since the Dao is the source of all change in the world, the part of us that feels a connection with the Dao is where our own desire for change comes from. I would like to call this part of us our Dao Self. If it was up to our Dao Self, we would always follow nature in moving with the current of the river. But there is another part of ourselves, the part which does not recognize our connection to the Dao. It is the part that enables us to function in the world as individuals, to experience ourselves as apart from one another. This part of us I would like to call our Ego Self.
The Ego Self is programmed to survive at all costs and to maintain control over our lives. It is resistant to change because change threatens to destroy a part of the identity we have created for ourselves as distinct entities. It is worried that change will cause our entire being to fall apart. And so our Ego Self wants us to work our way upstream, so that we stay in the same place and remain as stable as possible. This gives us pause to think about what it means to be human. Are we a part of the universe or apart from it? Is our real self the Dao Self or the Ego Self? While we may live our life predominantly from the perspective of one or the other of our two selves at any given time, they are always both with us throughout our life. Our basic nature is comprised of this duality, and being human means living with the paradox of this double identity. Our Ego Self is connected to our senses, and keeps us focused in the physical or ‘material’ world, the temporal world of matter. It’s voice is the voice of reason. Our Dao Self transcends sensory experience and calls us to look inside, to an invisible world that holds us to be part of the whole, the infinite world of spirit. Our Dao Self speaks with the voice of our intuition. When we start to accept ourselves as having this dual nature, it is much easier to understand our conflicting desires: we resist change in our lives and yet we deeply desire change. When we live from the perspective of the Ego Self, change becomes associated with pain, suffering and loss. However, as we learn to live life more from our Dao Self it is easier to embrace change and let go of resistance because change is no longer associated with loss. We don’t experience loss because we feel connected to the wealth of the universe. When John Donne said that ‘no man is an island,’ he was speaking about this interconnectedness that we have with our world and with each other. All of the great spiritual traditions of the past have been saying this in their own way.
They all call us to a greater awareness of our union with the source of being, the One of many names which I am calling the Dao. Like the island ultimately returning into the ocean from whence it came, we too are on a course for a union with the Dao. But like the island we fight against this. When our Ego Self is in charge we worry that if we do not struggle to hold on to our identity we will lose ourselves completely. We become protective of the welfare of our individual selves because we cannot see our greater connection to the whole. This is the paradox of our existence, source of both our profoundest miseries and our greatest delights. And we would not have it any other way. Due to the pressure of mass censorship, we now have our own censorship-free, and ad-free on demand streaming network! It is the world's first and only conscious media network streaming mind-expanding interviews, news broadcasts, and conscious shows. Click here to start a FREE 7-Day Trial and watch 100's of hours of conscious media videos, that you won't see anyw.
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